Generations: A Cocktail Tour | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Generations: A Cocktail Tour

A Boomer, Gen Xer, Millennial and Gen Zer walk into a bar (or four) and sample the goods

What makes a drink —or a bar— extra special? Is the experience different if you’re an experienced Boomer versus a fresh, young Gen Zer? For this Cocktails guide, a generational team of Source staffers hits four local haunts to find out, sipping the same drinks and sitting at the same tables… and sometimes, having very different takes on the same thing. 

click to enlarge Generations: A Cocktail Tour
Jennifer Galler


Drink: Laab Is All You Need

click to enlarge Generations: A Cocktail Tour
Allie Noland

Location: Sen Thai Noodle and Hot Pot, Downtown Bend 

Ingredients: House infused Thai chili, cucumber vodka, shallot syrup, lime, cucumber, mint, cilantro, pinch of fish sauce; Laab-seasoned peanuts on the side. 


Richard Sitts
(Copy Editor/Boomer, Baby!)

I don’t often drink at 4pm, but when I do, Sen is a fine space in which to raise a toast with the Source drinking team. Tall ceilings and windows showcase the outdoors; Frank Lloyd Wright would nod approval. Vodka is my least favorite spirit, but this drink was enticing and dared my taste buds to dance with its many flavors. Some folks my age might not go for the Thai chili, shallot syrup or fish sauce, but they will dig the relaxing late afternoon vibe! And the little bowl of laab-seasoned peanuts that accompanied each drink was a welcome and tasty touch.

Nicole Vulcan
(Editor/Generation Xceptionalism)

The Itti/Westlund/Wild Rose family brought us a breath of fresh air when it opened its noodle house along the Deschutes River – something that, in spite of it being a main attraction in Bend, doesn’t in my opinion have enough places to sip drinks along its banks. Sen’s clean, white, bright bar and friendly bartenders make it easy to want to slip in here just for a cocktail, but really, who can resist eating something, too? The Laab is All You Need is one of my favorites for its unique ingredients and cucumber-forward taste – and adding a snack on the side? Just what this Gen Xer, previously raised on a steady diet of smokes and sarcasm, needs to round out this drinking sesh.

Jack Harvel
(Reporter/Millennial)

When I read there’s fish sauce, Thai chili seasoning and shallot syrup in a drink my expectations were not high. It’s probably the most unique cocktail I’ve had, which isn’t saying much. If I’m getting a cocktail, I’m usually getting something sweet and fish free. And I’m totally wrong for it. The spicy, citrusy and minty mix went down easy and paired perfectly with the laab-seasoned peanuts that come on the side. Docking points for bar atmosphere because it’s first and foremost a restaurant and I can’t see myself going there just for drinks.

Allie Noland
(Reporter/Gen Zer)

As we browsed the adventurous cocktail menu at Sen, our pick was obvious. It was the first drink of the project, and we went all-in with fish sauce and cilantro—two ingredients you don’t often see in cocktails.“Laab Is All You Need” is the star of the cocktail series for me. It’s a fresh, spicy, funky drink with a decent punch of booziness. Though this drink has many listed ingredients, I’ll admit that I couldn’t pick up every flavor. Chili, cucumber and mint were at the forefront, while the fish sauce, shallot syrup and cilantro chilled in the background. The Gen Zer in me loved the free little snack side of peanuts and the trendy, green aesthetic of the set up. Pretty sure I was the only one to eat the cucumber ribbon.

Drink: Chilled Monkey Brains
(Serves 4)

click to enlarge Generations: A Cocktail Tour
Jennifer Galler

Location: Rapa Nui Tiki Lounge, Old Mill 

Ingredients: Lime juice, pineapple juice, passionfruit, house grenadine, velvet falernum, tequila, white rum, chopped strawberries, with 151 flaming lime added to the top.


Richard Sitts
(Copy Editor/Boomer, Baby!)

Our team guide led us to the outside secret elevator that whisked us up to the second floor and into a tropical escape from the wintry Northwest. We nearly bumped heads sucking on straws stuck in the bulbous sphere containing fruit flavors, while the faint white rum and tequila sashayed in tandem. I’ll come back one day for a coconut drink and to watch the “Gilligan’s Island” episodes playing on the TV, a favorite show from my youth. The lounge could enhance its tiki vibe by piping in the “Retro Cocktail Hour.” (Streaming anytime at retrococktail.org and streaming live 5-7pm Saturdays at kansaspublicradio.org.) These swinging tunes mix well with all cocktails!


Nicole Vulcan
(Editor/Generation Xceptionalism)

The film “Clueless” was a hit the year I graduated high school, all about a Type A Gen Xer who meddles in the love lives of everyone she knows. While I didn’t exactly meddle in any love lives this night, I DID meddle enough to paint myself as the Type A Gen Xer when I dictated to the rest of the crew that 1. They’d be part of this generational experiment, and 2. They’d all be drinking from the SAME drink at this tiki bar. The flavors were tropical and the flaming Bacardi 151 made this something I’d definitely order again with a group of friends before an amphitheater show. But did we share straws?! “As if!”

Jack Harvel
(Reporter/Millennial)

I was slightly disappointed that the Chilled Monkey Brains didn’t come in a monkey head like the famous(ly problematic) scene in “Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom,” but the massive pineapple glass was charming in its own way and the flaming lime is a nice touch. But the drink overall didn’t have much kick to it and was too heavy on the pineapple for my taste. Also, all the faux moai, fishnets and other island knickknacks didn’t mesh with my millennial sensibilities — it’s like if someone learned about the South Pacific strictly through listening to Jimmy Buffett. I think that’s kind of the point of Tiki bars, but it’s not my thing.

Allie Noland
(Reporter/Gen Zer)

This drink reminded me of a sophisticated version of “jungle juice” from my college days—random liquors, random fruit juices and chopped fruit in a big vat. The fruit-forward sharable added another level of goofiness to our experience. Trying to keep track of straws, taking turns sipping from the pineapple vessel and being in a tiki wonderland was an experience I never thought I would have with my co-workers, but I would hands down do it again. If you’re looking to escape the real world and crave a sugar hit, try “Chilled Money Brains” at Rapa Nui. If you’re looking to feel your drink, maybe opt for the Mai Tai with a tad more booziness.


Drink: Raiders of Isla

click to enlarge Generations: A Cocktail Tour
Allie Noland

Location: Waypoint Bar, The Grove in NW Crossing 

Ingredients: Rum, ginger, lemon, honey, scotch

Richard Sitts
(Copy Editor/Boomer, Baby!)

To kick off our second round a few days later, it was another airy, open space with high ceilings and a mellow trip welcoming us at dusk. I forego the selection of Bend Brewing Company beers on tap because we’re here for cocktails, dammit! Our choice was nicely presented and delicious as all get out! The five ingredients combined for a tasty treat that tickled my taste buds and became my favorite drink so far on this cocktail caper. Who knew that rum and scotch, buffered by sweet honey and tangy ginger, could get along so well?! And us older folks appreciate the laid-back vibe.

Nicole Vulcan
(Editor/Generation Xceptionalism)

Back in my day, it was easier to sit in a bar in a bustling market hall and focus on just getting down to the business of heavy appointment drinking (so hot back then), because there were definitely not so many DOODLES around to distract me with their damn cute doodle stuff. Back in my day, dogs went back behind some AT&T phone booth and did their thing, and we just got what we got; not so much of this designer dog business. I admit, I was having a hard time focusing on this drink because I was on NWX doodle watch. They’re just so damn cute, and they’re everywhere in NWX, including inside this bar. This drink was good, too – offering the always welcome flavor combo of booze, lemon and ginger, but with a lingering hit of scotch to keep you on your toes.

Jack Harvel
(Reporter/Millennial)

This was the strongest drink I tried on our little cocktail tour and had an interesting mix of sweet and smoky flavors. The atmosphere is minimalist and would appeal to the clean, blank and sparse sensibilities that dominate the more upscale aesthetic of people in my generation. The presentation is no-frills, which I kind of prefer, but am giving it a 3/5 because the other drinks had some garnish to make it more visually appealing. Overall, though, I’d definitely come back for drinks.

Allie Noland
(Reporter/Gen Zer)

Casual drink spot at its finest! The windowed wall and open concept of the bar made it the perfect early afternoon cocktail stop. I am sure it lights up at night, too. With varied seating options, people can stop in at the bar, grab a cozy booth or sit at a table. It’s a fun, easy spot to take friends and family. The drink wasn’t my style, but it had a simple beauty to it. The honey, lemon and ginger made it taste like a tasty wellness shot, but the smoky scotch was overpowering. Maybe it’s my underdeveloped 20-something palate, but smoky liquor is not my favorite. I could tell the drink was made with high-quality ingredients and it did do well on the booziness scale. I will go back, but probably order something else.


Drink: Mule Kickin’

click to enlarge Generations: A Cocktail Tour
Allie Noland

Location: Big E’s, Bend East Side 

Ingredients: Bulleit Bourbon, ginger beer, lime


Richard Sitts
(Copy Editor/Boomer, Baby!)

OK, now we’re talking! The simplicity of this straight-forward, no-nonsense libation at this tucked-away, south-side sports and live music bar was a welcome change of pace. The bourbon ruled this honest, three-ingredient, boozy cocktail that was all business and went down well with our potato skin and onion ring apps. Brilliant table conversation was bolstered by muted sports showing on every TV on every wall. This drink was the perfect nightcap to our adventure. Best of all, I learned two new words on this cocktail safari: falernum and orgeat — both flavored, low-alcohol syrups. Cheers!

Nicole Vulcan
(Editor/Generation Xceptionalism)

In the beforetimes (no, not the pandemic ones), I envision that Big E’s – formerly Kelly D’s – was one of those places where you embraced the haze of a smoke-filled bar, the cloying scent staying with you long after you’d called the cab you needed from drinking too many Jaegermeister shots. But alas, I don’t smoke anymore, smoking isn’t allowed inside anymore and the last time I had Jaeger I was still wearing the hemp dress I bought at Oregon Country Fair, so I’ll have to pontificate on the merits of the drink instead. Bar none, ginger beer makes everything better. These came in colorful mugs with a healthy, noticeable level of bourbon and lime. Sometimes, the simplest thing is the best thing.

Jack Harvel
(Reporter/Millennial)

Big E’s is like if a rabid Oregon sports fan designed a bomb shelter. The windowless green room is full of sports memorabilia and old-timey photos, some of which make less sense than others (looking at you, historical photo of Wrigley Field). But this isn’t like the other fancy-schmancy bars we’ve been to; this is a place to drink and watch a game. And for that purpose, this is a good bar — the drink was strong and tasty and there’s enough TVs that you’ll never miss a moment of the action.

Allie Noland
(Reporter/Gen Zer)

I’ll have to admit, “old Bend” dive bars aren’t my go-to spot when going for drinks as a 20-something. Don’t worry, my boss took me to the D&D my first week on the job, and I’ve been to my fair share of bars in college. So, I am not completely clueless. Big E’s walls were painted a shade lighter than forest green. I’d recommend Big E’s to sports watchers, tap lovers, onion ring fanatics and those who like strong drinks, but maybe not to the cocktail connoisseurs. With an out-of-the-park rating of booziness, the “Mule Kickin’” is a great way to kick off a fun time with your friends, but I wouldn’t call it the tastiest out of the series. I’d go back for a sports game and a basket of something fried.

Bonus Round! Our Personal Faves

For this round, each team member of this generational drinking team shares their favorite haunt, and why.


FAVORITE HAUNT: On Tap

click to enlarge Generations: A Cocktail Tour
Courtesy On Tap Instagram

Richard Sitts

(Copy Editor/Boomer, Baby!)

As a pint guy, I appreciate all the tap houses scattered around Central Oregon, but my favorite haunt is On Tap, in northeast Bend, whose rapid rotating taplist runs the gamut from ciders and sours, to IPAs and hazies, to heavy stouts and even wine, but NO cocktails! (The price of one cocktail elsewhere equals two pints and tip at a tap house!) Besides a plethora of Bend beers, On Tap pours brews from breweries up and down the West Coast and beyond. My favorites include Ruse and Great Notion from Portland, and Revision from Sparks, Nevada. And this place is right on my way home!





FAVORITE HAUNT: M&J Tavern

click to enlarge Generations: A Cocktail Tour
Courtesy MJ Tavern Instagram

Nicole Vulcan
(Editor/Generation Xceptionalism)

The M&J appealed to my Gen X sensibilities right away since a punk band was playing its open mic the first time I walked in. If you know the M&J, then you know it boasts more than just John Wayne posters and cool diner stools; it also has an amazing collection of tequila kept in a handy locked cage. Order the margarita — often on special — and be amazed at the friendly bartenders’ prowess in mixing up not some tired old thing poured from a pre-made mixer, but with a delightful combo of juices and nearly any tequila you could dream to order. Or just go ‘head and order a macro beer and party like it’s 1999. Your call.


FAVORITE HAUNT: Vector Volcano Classic Arcade

click to enlarge Generations: A Cocktail Tour
Courtesy Vector Volcano Facebook
Jack Harvel
(Reporter/Millennial)

Vector Volcano doesn’t serve cocktails, but it does let you drink while playing some great classic arcade games for a very reasonable $7 an hour. And who needs a $14 cocktail when you’ve got cheap access to Dig Dug? I grew up after the arcades had closed and home consoles became ubiquitous, but there’s something special about playing on a massive cabinet that has less computing power than my smartphone.




FAVORITE HAUNT: Dogwood Cocktail Cabin

click to enlarge Generations: A Cocktail Tour
Courtesy Dogwood Instagram

Allie Noland
(Reporter/Gen Zer)

If I am going anywhere for a cocktail, it’s Dogwood. Accurately representing the Zer generation, atmosphere matters to me most. Dogwood’s got it all—downtown Bend location, an adventurous menu, tasty little bites, live DJ music and a cozy, cute vibe. The drinks are perfectly “boozed”—make you feel a little something but won’t knock you off your seat. I’ve done a decent job sampling the menu and have never been disappointed. The standout must be “Dillicious.”  It’s tangy, fresh and a little funky. The drink is dill-forward, making it feel like a summery, drink-by-the-garden cocktail. I’m all about the egg white topper and gin in cocktails, so this drink just works for me. For those looking for a mellower drink, my friends and I love the “Lavender,” “Rosebud” and “Bluebird.”

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